As promised.

<3 you, Hovercraft.


no written law to stay one’s hand

Today campus was full of policemen, and every third car that swished past was white with Battenberg markings. The area around the library was crammed with TV vans, press crews, university security, real cops, suited official-looking blokes and huge hard-looking men with earpieces I took to be MI goons. They were trying to dress more classily than your average goon, and succeeded in looking just like Vinnie Jones did in Snatch. For every one of these non-students, there were at least three students, variously rubbernecking, loitering, hanging about and bobbing around trying to get into a peripheral shot.

Ah, yes. They’re holding the last of the PM-hopeful debates at my university tonight.

I’m truly, madly, deeply apathetic about politics in this country. I’ve not seen government-aided positive change in my lifetime (not that I’ve been looking hard), just increases in fees and a couple of truly stupid wars that have been going on half my lifetime now. I’ve never had any sort of pride in my country, except by fleeting, guilty comparison to much more fucked up parts of the world. The main parties seem to be a bunch of self-serving lying arseholes whose policies are basically shit, another bunch of toffish self-serving lying arseholes who don’t have any policies because the first bunch stole them all, and a bunch of impotent gleamy-eyed idealists who can promise the moon secure in the knowledge that they will not be required to deliver on it. But that’s just the default cynicism kicking in.

On most of the real issues I don’t know enough to believe hard, and I haven’t been swayed either way by the various zealots who think they do. (Our first-past-the-post representative democracy is unfair, obviously. Is it a necessary evil? Would constant hung parliaments be worse? Hell if I know. Look, I study war because politics is too damn depressing.) I just don’t really have strong opinions on anything except a fairly helpless, limp secular humanist upbringing. The things that men fight over are women and politics, and I’m sure I’m the least bellicose chap you’ll ever meet at the moment, not having either. It’s nice to be a well-off mollycoddled middle class cracker who doesn’t have to care about anything.

Still, I voted (by post, in my own constituency of Bristol, rendering all the Birmingham-based UKIP spam I’m getting worthl- uh, even more worthless.) Because if I don’t vote, I forfeit even my right to complain. And that’s the only one I’m likely to exercise.

At least it’ll warrant another series of The Thick of It, one way or another.

save me some sugar, this won’t take long

Last Monday parents left me dozy but content in a brightly lit, fully functional flat. As soon as I woke up from my nap mains power had gone kaput. Of course, I did the sensible thing and surfed the internet – new laptop has quite deliciously hueg battery life, and lights and internet were both functional. Just not mains sockets.

No, it wasn’t Moose.

Called the maintenance number listed on the university site. It rung off instantly.
Called the Shackleton reception. Went “beeeeeeeee” a bit and rung off too.
Checked phone was functional. Repeated. Swore.
Called Siz. For the first time ever, she didn’t have an instant and wonderful solution. I KNOW, I FELT BETRAYED TOO.
Called Security, rather apologetically, who then put me through to Shac, who then put me through to maintenance. (Turns out the extension for Maintenance is 4040. Appropriate.) Half an hour later a friendly and extremely competent maintenance bloke rolled up, took a gander at whatever had gone wrong and fixed it in short order. While he was there I mentioned that the flat had a mould problem and that Jess and I had been bitching about to his colleagues for six months now; he took a look at it, rang through to his maintenance mates and did whatever the olden-timey version of opening a support ticket is, and gave me his word it’d be fixed in a week. I thanked him and he went on his way.

The next day another friendly and extremely competent maintenance bloke in overalls rolled up and took a good long hard look at the mould; I told him there was some in Jess’s room. He took a look (skeleton key – Jess still isn’t back yet :c) and said it didn’t look bad; I said yes, she’d cleaned the worst of it off, and I hadn’t so that I wouldn’t have someone look at it and go “nah ‘s nothing.” He conceded the point, wrote things down and also left. An hour later a third friendly and extremely competent maintenance bloke in a stripy shirt rolled up, cleaned the mould off with one flavour of acrid-smelling chemical, sealed the wall with another, salted the earth and raised a mouse-skull standard to the desert gods. The last two are not true.

Done all my essays, which is a huge load off my mind. Practising History I think went rather well; Analysing Everyday Texts much less so, but that’s less bad time management and more completely incomprehensible texts. Fortunately, AET counts for next to nothing and I don’t have to do it next year! \o/ I liked the tutor, but that module was a mistake.

Upon arriving back in Bromingham, the things I ordered online for myself were:
– Prebble’s “Culloden”
– Copy paper
– Generation Kill on DVD
– Best of Signal
– New electric toothbrush

On all of these but the toothbrush, the shipping was free. On the brush, it was £8. All but one of these items came within three days, except one which still hasn’t been delivered.

I don’t really need to say which one it is, do I?

total expenses for last week:
£26 food shopping
£15 GK
£28 toofbrush
£5 Best of Signal
£3 Culloden
= £77

we do what we can, until we cannot

smoking shredded cardboard, eating sawdust baked with lime

Perhaps I’m missing the point entirely here, in which case I welcome being crushed by people with more practical knowledge of the field; I just take what they feed me, season with what I know and chew on it a bit. The more I learn about publishing, the more I fear that certain friends are right and the industry is utterly doomed.

No matter where consumers buy books, their belief that electronic media should cost less—that something you can’t hold simply isn’t worth as much money—will exert a powerful force.

Pardon? Am I missing the bit where that isn’t a perfectly rational and justified belief? The production and distribution costs of e-books, by comparison to dead trees, are zero (and if they’re not you’re doing something completely wrong.) The author’s daily bread, and the costs of editing and marketing, still exist (they’re pretty important, you know?). But the cost of printing infrastructure and supplies (even when most of it’s been outsourced to China), cost of shipping the clunky physical copies to booksellers all over the world, and above all the profit percentage that goes to the bookseller, all this is why digital is the future. (These, and the cheapness of bulk ordering, is how Amazon is leaving your arse in ruins, bookshop fans!)

Straight from the horse’s mouth: On a twenty-six-dollar book, the publisher receives thirteen dollars, out of which it pays all the costs of making the book. The author gets $3.90 in royalties. Bookstores return about forty per cent of the hardcovers they buy; this accounts for $5.20 per book. Another $3 goes to overhead costs and the price of producing and shipping the book—leaving, in the best case, about a dollar of profit per book. A $10 ebook, with that same royalty (except that they’re offering ebook authors a 25% royalty, in actuality less but proportionally more) cuts out all other. Being quite ridiculously generous, say the costs of hosting and website maintenance somehow equal production and shipping costs. That leaves 45% as straight profit. Four and a half times the profitability of traditional books, which publishers are mass-murdering their own employees to keep afloat. And they want the consumer to be paying more. More pure profit for them.

It’s not about supporting high street booksellers, except to the most unrealistic. High street booksellers are fucked, because whether it’s from cheaper mail order or direct download, they just can’t compete with the internet. Sure, this kills the printing industry and especially kills the lovely little bookshops I used to know, but capitalist efficiency has always done that. (And when the majority of bookshops and printers go the way of the livery stable, coal mine and opium den, I’m sure their ex-employees, with every other part of our defunct, unprofitable and mostly-long-outsourced-to-azns physical industries, will lead rich, full lives of meaningless paperwork under Mrs Thatcher’s casino-capitalism service economy until nobody wants our services any more and this country’s borrowed time runs out.)

Of course people will expect to pay less for digital. They’re already paying a premium to the tech companies for the hardware, and their ISPs for distribution. These have replaced the costs that make books expensive in the first place. They don’t expect to pay the maintenance of the redundant brick-and-mortar shops that mark an inefficient and outdated delivery system, they don’t expect to pay shipping charges for things that aren’t being shipped or the production costs incurred by stamping things flat on dead trees. They’re paying the writer’s wages and the editor’s dues – if anything, paying more for less in the latter – and when you cut out the massive inefficiencies in a system, not passing the savings on to the customer is exploitation bordering on theft, and your competitors who can afford to will justly destroy you. $10 a pop is unbelievably generous.

The furore over prices seems to me naked exploitation from corps who don’t even offer their advertising and editing services any more, who are murdering the only things that keep them long-term competitive in a bid to keep their short-term margins up. Free market capitalism will rape them out of existence. Nobody remotely net-literate will pay high street prices, and us net-literate ones are the ever-increasing majority. Answer? Rather than start swimming, you try to fight Amazon. Rather than compete properly, you’re begging Jobs to help you rip off the customer, to increase already stunning margins.

Q fucking Q, you rent-seeking bitches.